Alexander Shprygin returns to Moscow after expulsion from France. Photo: Vasily Maximov/AFP
Alexander Shprygin, who heads Russia's national supporters association, was among the 20 Russian fans expelled from France for disrupting public order after violent clashes between Russian and English fans last weekend before their countries met in Marseille.
The group was put on a flight from Nice to Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport earlier Saturday after French investigators were unable to slap specific charges on its members but said they suspected some of them were violent and well-organised hooligans.
Shprygin said the fans had received usual exit stamps that would allow them to return France.
“I have the desire to (go back),” Shprygin told reporters, adding that he had tickets to Russia's match against Wales on Monday. “I plan to make this decision after I go home and see my family.”
The fans expelled from France have denied taking part in the Marseille unrest.
The other expelled fans echoed their leader's statements, swearing their innocence and said their treatment had been unfair.
“When the French fans come in 2018 (for the World Cup hosted by Russia), I hope no-one will touch them or insult them,” said Vitaly Petrakov, a 48-year-old Moscow Torpedo fan.
Ivan Mironov, who heads the local branch of the fan association in Russia's Perm region, said the group could not be held responsible for individual fans' behaviour.
“There were 15,000 Russians at the game in Marseille,” he said. “How can one organisation be responsible for all of them?”
Russian officials meanwhile have expressed conflicting opinions about fighting among football fans, spanning from condemnation to outright endorsement.
President Vladimir Putin on Friday said that fighting among football fans was a “disgrace” but questioned how “200 of our fans could beat up several thousand English,” drawing laughs and applause from the audience at the economic forum he was addressing.
The lawmaker who employs Shprygin at the Russian parliament, Igor Lebedev, wrote on Twitter earlier this week he saw “nothing wrong” in the clashes and encouraged the Russian supporters to “keep it up.”